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If we look at a map of South London compiled at any time during the eighteenth century it is surprising to observe how little the place had grown since the fifteenth. There runs, as of old, the Causeway at right angles to the Embankment. On either side of the Causeway or High Street or St. Margaret's Hill, run off right and left a few narrow streets: the continuity of houses is broken by St. George's Church, south of which, although there are, here and there, detached houses and even rows of houses or terraces, there are open fields, streams, ponds and gardens. St. George's Fields, crossed by paths, are broad and open fields stretching out westward till they join Lambeth Marsh. St. Margaret's Church has long since vanished: he who knows the old maps can still put his finger on the site, but its burial ground has wholly disappeared. There are four old churches in Southwark proper: St. George's, St. Saviour's, St. Thomas's, and St. Olave's. On the east are the churches of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, not to speak of Deptford: on the west is Lambeth Church: on the south are the churches of Newington and Kennington. As for other institutions, there are the two great hospitals St. Thomas's and Guy's almost side by side: and there are the prisons, that of the King's Bench, the Marshalsea and the White Lyon. They were all on the east side of the street until 1756, when the King's Bench Prison was removed across the road nearly opposite to St. George's. Some time after the Marshalsea was moved further south on the site of the old White Lyon and including that ancient Clink. The old{249} Clink on Bankside had vanished. But the Borough Compter was still flourishing—a grimy, filthy, fever-stricken place.

At the back of the houses and narrow streets to east and west, the fields began with open ditches or sewers and sluggish streams. 'Snow's' Fields on the east were as well known as St. George's in the West. 'Long Lane' ran from St. George's to Bermondsey Church: it contained a few houses: Bermondsey Lane, commonly called Barmsie, ran from the old cross to the same church: it was already a street of houses. The most crowded part of Southwark proper was the street called Tooley or St. Olave's, the most ancient street in the Borough, originally built upon the Embankment, the Thames{250} Street of South London. Here, in the eighteenth century, there were no vestiges left of the former palaces: everything had gone except a crypt or a vault: at every step one came upon the entrance to a court, narrow, mean and squalid: these courts remain, also narrow, mean and squalid, to the present day. There were no places in London, unless in the neighbourhood of Hermitage Street, Wapping, where human creatures had to pig together in such horrible conditions. There was no water supply to these courts: there was no lighting: there was no paving, not even with the round cobbles which they still called paving.
(From an old Print)
Some Ancient Houses in the Long Walk Bermondsey Some Ancient Houses in the Long Walk, Bermondsey
Jamaica House Bermondsey Jamaica House, Bermondsey

On the west side of the High Street, of which a map is{251} given on p. 85 of this volume, beyond St. Saviour's, the nave of which was fast falling into ruins, came Bankside. Alas! It was deserted: not a single theatre was left: not a baiting Place: not a Bear to bait: there was no longer a poet or an actor or a musician on Bankside: there were no more evenings at the Falcon: there was no longer heard the tinkling of the guitar, and the scraping of the violin. South of Bankside lay two broad gardens, side by side: one called Pye Garden; and the other, west of Winchester House, was called Winchester Park. Paris Gardens were no more. Blackfriars Bridge Road, in which there were as yet but few houses, had been cut ruthlessly right through the middle of the old Gardens; the trees, once so thick and close, had been laid low, but there were still kitchen gardens. South of the Gardens, with an interval of a few side streets, we come upon St. George's Fields, and on the west of these fields upon Lambeth Marsh, which was{252} cut up into ropewalks, tenter grounds, nurseries, and kitchen gardens. Where Waterloo Station now stands were Cuper's Gardens: there were half a dozen Pleasure Gardens, of which more anon: there were turnpikes wherever two roads met. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of this quarter in the last century was the immense number of streams and ditches and ponds: most of these were little better than open sewers: complaints were common of the pollution of these streams—but it was in vain: people will always throw everything that has to be ejected into the nearest running water if they can. One wants the map in order to understand how numerous were these streams. There was one murky brook which ran along the backs of all the houses on the east side of High Street—the prisoners of the Marshalsea and the King's Bench grumbled about it continually: another corresponding stream ran behind the west side of High Street.{253} Maiden Lane, now called Park Lane, rejoiced in one: Gravel Lane, more blessed still, was happy with a ditch or stream on each side: Dirty Lane had one: another ran along Bandy Leg Walk: other streams flowed, or crept, or crawled, across Lambeth Marsh and St. George's Fields. Where there were no houses, and therefore no pollutions, the streams of this broad marsh, lying beneath and between the orchards, fringing the gardens, and crossing the open fields, were a pleasant feature, though they had no stones to prattle over, but only the dark peaty humus of the marsh: and the water channels necessitated frequent little rustic bridges which were sometimes picturesque. Some of the streams again were of considerable size, especially that called 'The Shore' by Roques. It was also called the Effra. Along the banks of this stream stood here and there cottages, having little gardens in front and rustic bridges across the stream. But whether these streams ran or whether they crawled, behind{254} or beside the crowded houses they were foul and fetid and charged with all the things which should be buried away or burned way: they were laden with fevers and malaria and 'putrid' sore throat.
(From a Drawing by T. Higham, 1820)

The High Street of Southwark is now a crowded thoroughfare, because it is the main artery of a town containing{255} a population of many hundreds of thousands. In the last century it was quite as animated because it was one of the main arteries by which London was in communication with the country. An immense number of coaches, carts, waggons, and 'caravans' passed every day up and down the High Street, some stopping or starting in Southwark itself; some going over London Bridge to their destination in the City. The coach of the first half of the century can be restored from Hogarth. That of the latter half of the{256} century was in all respects like the revived coaches of the present day, adapted for rapid travelling along a smooth road. The carts were carriers' carts on two wheels with a tilt or cover; they carried parcels and small packages, and on occasions, but not always, one or two passengers. The waggons, which carried heavy goods and passengers not in a hurry, were also covered with a tilt; their broad wheels and capacious interior can be restored, as well as the coach, from that most trustworthy painter of his own time. As for the caravans, I am in some doubt. I suppose, however, that a{257} caravan was then what it is now, in which case it was an elementary Pullman's car, in which people and their effects were drawn slowly along the road, in a four-wheeled covered cart. Perhaps the passengers slept in the car at night, drawn up by the roadside, like the gipsies. But of this theory I have no kind of proof.

From the Borough alone, without counting the vehicles which passed through to or from the City, there were sent out, every week, one hundred and forty-three stage coaches: one hundred and twenty-one waggons: and one hundred and ninety-six carts and caravans. And, of course, the same number came back every week. There was a continual succession of departures and arrivals; all day long, one after the other, the stage coaches came galloping up each to its own inn; while they were still far away the people of the inn knew when their own coach was coming by the tune played{258} on the guard's bugle: the High Street, in fact, was like a railway terminus, where trains are arriving and leaving all day long.
THE OLD TOWN HALL SOUTHWARK The Old Town Hall, Southwark

I am quite sure that we have no idea at all of the life and animation at a London inn when the stages were started and when they arrived. With as much method, and as quickly as the railway porters clear out the luggage and get rid of the train, the horses were taken out: the passengers got down: the coachman looked inside for his perquisites in the{259} shape of anything forgotten and left behind: the luggage was laid out: the porters seized it and carried it off to the hackney coach outside: the passengers followed their luggage: and the courtyard was ready for the next coach. Outside the courtyard there hung about, all day long, whole companies of thieves waiting for the chance of carrying off something unconsidered or forgotten. Generally, they stood in with the stable boys and the porters, who, for a trifle, were good enough to shut their eyes. If a trunk was seen to lie unclaimed, one of them came bustling in. 'Give us a hand, Jack,' he cried to one of the porters, as if he had been ordered to call for and bring away that trunk. A confederate or two stood at the door to trip up a pursuer or a proprietor, if there was one, and in a moment man and box would be lost to sight in a neighbouring court. Pickpockets as well abounded about the courtyards: outside were houses filled with disorderly folk of all kinds waiting to entrap and to tempt and to rob the country bumpkin. There was the couple ready with the confidence trick: the generous and hospitable{260} gentleman to welcome the country lad: there was the lady of the ready smile: and the taverns with the doors open to all. The numbers of coaches and waggons I have given refer to Southwark alone, and to the conveyances which belonged to the inns up and down in the High Street. But a great many more came across the bridge from the City daily. Now, if we are considering the traffic and animation of the roads leading to the City, remember that the High Street, Borough, was only one of many main lines of traffic. There were, besides, the roads to the North: to the Eastern counties: to the Midlands: to the West: and to the Northwest. Day and night the roads all round London were thronged with these coaches, carts, caravans, and waggons: but these vehicles were for ordinary folk only: for tradesmen, attorneys, clergymen, farmers, riders (that is, commercial travellers) and servants: a nobleman or a country gentleman scorned to travel in a public conveyance: he came up to London, if not in his own coach, then in a post-chaise, of which there were thousands on the road. Add to these the horsemen, of whom there were an immense number riding from place to place: add, further, the long droves of cattle, sheep and pigs: the cattle, however, to save their feet and to keep them in condition, were mostly taken along 'drives' by the roadside, where the ground was soft. One of these can still be seen on the other side of Hampstead. Pedestrians there were also by thousands: soldiers: sailors: gipsies: strolling actors: tinkers and tramps—the land was full of tramps: in a word the roads near London were crowded and animated and full of adventure, character, incident, and picturesqueness: indeed, the dismal and deserted condition of the modern road makes it difficult for us to realise the crowds and the life of the road in the eighteenth century.
Old Houses in Ewer Street Old Houses in Ewer Street

Of society in the Borough there is little information to be procured. The place had, however, its better class. One infers so much from the fact that there were Assembly Rooms{261} in the High Street, and that a Borough Assembly was held during the winter on stated days, at which the fashion and aristocracy of the place were gathered together. I have gathered one anecdote alone concerning this Assembly. It is of an accident.
COURTYARD OF THE DOG & BEAR INN Courtyard of the Dog & Bear Inn

The company were assembled: the Minuets had begun: the orchestra was in full play: the ladies were dressed in their finest: hoops were swinging: towering heads were nodding: the gentlemen were splendid in pale blue satin and in pink, when suddenly the doors, which stood on the level of the street, were pushed open, and a dozen oxen came running in one after the other. The company parted right and left,{262} falling over benches and each other: the creatures, terrified by the light and the shrieks of the ladies, began to point threatening horns: nobody dared to drive them out till the 'well-known'—the phrase is pathetic, because fame is so short-lived—the 'well-known' Mrs. A. advanced, and with a brandishing of her apron and the magic of a 'Shoo! Shoo!' persuaded the animals to leave the place. Then who shall tell of the raising of fallen and fainting damsels? Who shall speak of the rending of skirts and embroidered petticoats? Who can describe the deplorable damage to the heads? And who can adequately celebrate the gallantry of the men when there was no more danger? Bowls of punch, I am pleased to record, were quickly administered as a restorative: and after certain necessary repairs to the heads and the sewing up of torn skirts, the wounded spirits of the company revived, and the ball proceeded.

Another indication of society in Southwark is the fact that on one occasion—perhaps on more than one occasion—when the black footmen of London resolved on holding an Assembly of their own, it was in the Borough that they held it. And a very interesting evening it must have proved, had we any record of the proceedings. Perhaps black cooks were found to dance with black footmen.

Since it contained the headquarters of so many stage coaches, carts and waggons, the High Street was bound to contain, as well, many houses of entertainment, if only as stables for the horses and accommodation for the drivers and grooms. The inns of Southwark, however, were far more ancient than the stage coaches. We have seen already that from the earliest times of trade the southern suburb was the place where merchants and those who brought produce of all kinds to London out of the south country put up their teams of pack-horses and their goods, and found bed and board and company for themselves. We have also seen how the inns of Southwark were used as gathering places and starting places{263} for the Pilgrims bound for St. Thomas's Shrine, Canterbury. The medi?val inn was not much like that of later times. It contained a common hall and a common dormitory, with another for women. There was also a covered place for goods, and stables for horses. A small specimen of a fifteenth-century inn survives at Aylesbury: the hall, quite a small room, is very well preserved. That of the Tabard must have been much larger, in order to accommodate so large a company. The quaint old inns, so long the delight of the artist, now nearly{264} all gone, were not earlier than the sixteenth or seventeenth century. They consisted of a large open courtyard filled with waggons and vehicles of all kinds, surrounded by galleries, at the back of which were bedrooms, and other chambers opening from the gallery. On the ground floor were the kitchens, dining-rooms, and private sitting-rooms. There was generally a large room for public dinners and other occasions. The inns of Southwark formed, so long as they stood, the most picturesque part of modern Southwark. Scarcely anything now remains of them, the George alone preserving anything of its ancient picturesqueness. The reader who desires a closer acquaintance with these inns is referred to Mr. Philip Norman's exquisitely illustrated book, which presents in a lasting form the vanished glories of the High Street.

To speak of these inns is like entering upon a historical catalogue. There are so many of them, and the associations connected with them carry one away into so many directions and land him into many strange corners of history.

At the south end of London Bridge, and on the west side of it, stood a tavern called the 'Bear at the Bridge Foot.' It was built in the year 1319 by one Thomas Drinkwater, taverner of London. In Riley's 'Memorials' may be found a lease of this house by the proprietor to one James Beauflur. The lease is for six years. James Beauflur is to pay no rent, because he has advanced money to Thomas Drinkwater to help in the building. James is, in fact, to act as manager of a 'tied' house. Thomas Drinkwater will furnish all the wine, and will keep an exact account of the same and will have a settlement twice a year. Thomas will also complete the furniture of the house with 'hanaps,' that is, handled mugs of silver and of wood, with curtains, clothes, and everything else necessary for the proper conduct of a tavern.

One hopes that James Beauflur made the tavern pay. This was the commencement of a long and singularly prosperous inn. It became one of the most famous inns of{265} London, and one of the most popular for dinners. Hither came the Churchwardens and vestry of St. Olave's to feast at the expense of the parish as long as feasts were allowed. Some of the bills of these dinners have been preserved among the papers of St. Saviour's. Rendle the antiquary and historian of Southwark gives one:
Pd for    3 Geese, 3 Capons and one Rabbit    00    14    08
    3 Tarts    00    12    00
    a Giblett pie makyng    00    02    08
    Beefe    01    02    06
    3 leggs of mutton    00    8    00
    wine and dresing the meat and naperie, fire, bread and beere    02    11    00
    18 oz Tobacco and 12 pipes    00    01    02
    12 Lemmonds and 18 Oranges    00    03    00
    05    15    00


Among the names of persons connected with the tavern must be noticed that of the Duke of Norfolk—'Jockey of Norfolk'—in 1463. Two hundred years later, one Cornelius Cooke, late a Colonel in Cromwell's army and a commissioner for the sale of the King's lands, enters upon a new sphere of usefulness by turning landlord of the Bear at the Bridge Foot. Samuel Pepys records several visits paid to the tavern. From this house the Duke of Richmond carried off Miss Stewart. It was pulled down in 1761, when the end of the bridge was widened. I need not catalogue the whole long list of the Southwark inns: you may find them all enumerated in Rendle's book, but mention may be made of the more important. Some of them, it will be seen, had been in more ancient times the town houses of great people—Bishops, Abbots and nobles. Other town houses, those off the highway of trade, having been deserted by their former occupants, fell upon evil times, went down in the world, even became mere tenements. This happened to Sir John Fastolf's house, and to the house of the Prior of Lewes, and to many others. Those standing in the highway, whither came all the merchants; whither came all the waggons; became transformed, and proved more valuable property as inns than as residences.

Thus, in Foul Lane, now just south of St. Mary Overies, was the entrance to the Green Dragon Inn. This inn was anciently the town house of the Cobhams. This family left Southwark, and the house, with some alterations, became an Inn. When carriers began to ply between London and the country towns, Tunbridge was connected by a carrier's cart with the Green Dragon. Early in the eighteenth century it became the Southwark post-office. Another and a much more important inn for carriers and waggons was the King's Head. Taylor, the Water Poet, says that 'carriers come into the Borough of Southwark out of the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey: from Reigate to the Falcon: from{267} Tunbridge, Seavenoks, and Staplehurst to the Katherine Wheel, and others from Sussex thither; Dorking and Ledderhead{268} to the Greyhound: some to the Spurre, the George, the King's Head: some lodge at the Tabbard or Talbot: many, far and wide, are to be had almost daily at the White Hart.'

The White Hart is, if possible, a more historical inn than Chaucer's Tabard itself. It was the headquarters of Jack Cade, as has already been related in chapter vi. In front of this inn one Hawarden was beheaded: and also in front of this inn the headless body of Lord Say, after being dragged at the horsetail from the Standard at Chepe, was cut up in quarters, which were displayed in various places in order to strike terror into the minds of the people.

I have spoken sufficiently of Chaucer already. The Tabard Inn, from which the famous Company set out, was named after the ornamented coat or jacket worn by Kings at Coronations, and by heralds, or even by ordinary persons. In the fourteenth century it was the town house of the Abbot{269} of Hyde, Winchester. Does this mean that the Abbot allowed the place to be used as an ordinary inn? It is clear that Chaucer speaks of it as an ordinary inn. Yet in 1307 the{270} Bishop of Winchester licenses a chapel at the Abbot's Hospitium in the Parish of St. Margaret, Southwark. At the Dissolution it is surrendered as 'a hostelry called the Taberd, the Abbot's place, the Abbot's stable, the garden belonging, a dung place leading to the ditch going to the Thames.' It is explained in Spight's 'Chaucer,' 1598, that the old Tabard had much decayed, but that it had been repaired 'with the Abbot's house adjoining.' Until the inn was finally pulled down, a room used to be shown as that in which Chaucer's Company assembled. This, however, was not the room, though it may have been rebuilt on the site of the old room. For on Friday, May 26, 1676, a destructive fire broke out, which raged over a large part of the Borough and destroyed the Queen's Head, the Talbot, the George, the White Hart, the King's Head, the Green Dragon, the Borough Compter, the Meat Market, and about 500 houses. St. Thomas's Hospital was saved by a change of wind, which also seems to have saved St. Mary Overies.
(From an Engraving by B. Cole)

Walk with me from the Bridge head southwards, noting the Inns first on the right or the west, and then on the left or east.

We have, first, the Bear on Bridge Head: then, before getting to Ford Lane, the Bull's Head: opposite the market place, the Goat: next the Clement. Opposite St. George's Church we cross over, and are on the east side, going north again: here we have a succession of Inns: the Half Moon: the Blue Maid and the Mermaid: the Nag's Head: the Spur: the Christopher: the Cross Keys: the Tabard: the George: the White Hart: the King's Head: the Black Swan: the Boar's Head. There is a pleasing atmosphere of business mixed with festivity about this street of inns and courtyards: of stables and grooms: of drivers and guards: of coaches and waggons: of merchants and middlemen: of country squires come up on business, with the hope of combining a little pleasure amongst the excitements of the town{271} with a profitable deal or two. There is the smell of roast meats hanging about the courtyards of the inns. There is a continual calling for the drawers, there is a clinking of hanaps and a murmur of voices.

The strepitus, however, of the High Street is not like that of Bankside. There is no tinkling of guitars: no singing before noon or after noon: no laughing: the country folk do not laugh: they do not understand the wit of the poets and the players. High Street has nothing to do with Bankside: the merchants and the squires know nothing about the Show Folk.

There was one exception. Among the Show Folk was a certain Edward Alleyn, who was a man of business as well as a conductor of entertainments. He was on the vestry of St. Saviour's: he was also churchwarden, his name appears in the parish accounts of the period. He was a popular churchwarden: probably he had about him so much of the showman that he was genial, and mannerly, and courteous—these are the elementary virtues of the profession. For we find that when he proposes to retire his fellow members of the vestry refuse to let him go.

It is melancholy to walk down the High Street and to reflect that all these inns, most of them so picturesque, were standing thirty or forty years ago, and that some of them were standing ten years ago. One of them is figured in the 'Pickwick Papers.' The courtyard is too vast: the figures are too small: the galleries are too large: but the effect produced is admirable. Now not only are the old Inns gone, but there is nothing to take their place: a modern public-house is not an Inn. The need of an Inn at Southwark is gone: there are no more caravans of produce brought up to the Borough: the High Street has become the shop and the provider of everything for the populations of the parishes of St. Saviour, St. Olave, St. Thomas, and St. George.


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